Thursday, March 31, 2011

Preparations for invasion in Caladh Harbour.

Near the head of the Kyles of Bute we first passed a monstrosity of a fish farm but then approached the beautiful wooded isle of Eilean Dubh.

A stone lighthouse marks the entrance to the delightfully hidden Caladh Harbour which nestles behind the isle. The light has long gone but the whitewashed tower is a great landmark for the harbour beyond.

Not much remains. A rusting derrick still swings over a stone pier. However, from 1942 until 1945, during WW2 this was a hive of activity. HMS James Cook, a shore based station for training landing craft crew, was based here. Exercises in the Kyles of Bute and beyond prepared the sailors for crossing to and landing on the distant beaches of Normandy on D day.

Today the harbour is a quiet anchorage for visiting yachtsmen and a pleasant diversion for itinerant sea kayakers. We left by the north entrance, marked by another stone beacon. Few visitors will guess the important part this quiet backwater in our history.


  1. Hello Douglas,

    As far as I know from some books, I believe that HMS James Cook was the designation of Glen Caladh Castle. Since 1942, it hold he Beach Pilotage School where at times the Combined Operations Pilotage Parties (COPPs) trained.
    My intuition is that somewhat all this infused into paddlesports, as after the war, many commando, RN and SOE instructors settled in Scotland to pursue several outdoors activities.
    It would good to know more about all that.



  2. Greetings Wenley, I heard about Caladh's past from a long retired Naval officer (who is a fellow member of the Arlington Baths Club where I swim in Glasgow). As far as he told me, the operations related only to training landing craft crew in navigation, but who knows what secret activities may have taken place in this out of the way spot! The father of one of my schhool friends taught commandos near Spean Bridge and that did involve "canoes". He went on to work as a PE instructor in schools after the war. One of his extracurricular activities for school children was kayaking.


  3. My grandfather was a member of COPP from 1944-45. They specialised in canoe-based operations, carrying out clandestine reconnaissance of enemy-held beaches ahead of amphibious assaults to check for underwater obstacles, enemy defences, beach load-bearing capacities, etc.

    Although I believe HMS James Cook was primarily a landing craft training base, after joining COPP my grandfather did attend a navigation course that was held there. One of COPP's tasks was to guide in the landing craft on the day of the invasion, so that would make sense.

  4. Hello Rob, thank you very much for adding this most interesting information, particularly about your grandfather's role.